The Cancer of Credobaptism?

Here’s something that’s been going on in the Reformed blogosphere that caught my eye: Last week Carl Trueman wrote a post in which he questioned why so many parachurch Reformed organizations could set aside church polity and baptism – historically very serious church differences – but were prepared to die on the hill of complementarianism. One of the responses came from Denny Burk who curiously compared egalitarianism to skin cancer. Other theological differences might be benign, but in Burk’s eyes egalitarianism is a malignancy:

“Every year I visit my dermatologist for a check-up. In those examinations, he looks at everything growing on or under my skin to see if there is anything that needs to be removed. Every year, he observes a number of moles, skin tags, and other unseemly blemishes. For aesthetic reasons, he’ll sometimes suggest that I have one or more of these blemishes removed—a suggestion that I typically refuse. On two occasions, however, my doctor has identified “blemishes” that he insisted must be removed because they were precancerous. I rely on the doctor to distinguish the benign blemishes from those that will develop into something that is malignant. Neither type of blemish will kill me. But what grows out of the latter type of blemish can indeed end my life.

Differences over secondary theological issues are like those blemishes. By themselves, they are merely theological blemishes that do not necessarily threaten the central issues of the gospel. Like those blemishes, however, some of them have the potential to turn into a theological cancer. Some secondary issues have more deadly potential than others, and we all have an obligation to be able to distinguish the former from the latter.”

Yikes, cancer! Burk also quotes Mark Dever on the same topic:

Paedobaptism is not novel…  But, on the good side, evangelicals who have taught such a doctrine have continued to be otherwise faithful to Scripture for 5 centuries now.  And many times their faithfulnesses have put those of us who may have a better doctrine of baptism to shame!  Egalitarianism is novel.  Its theological tendencies have not had such a long track record.  And the track record they have had so far is not encouraging.”

Hmmm, what’s interesting here is that Dever’s comment reminds me that at the onset of the Reformation paedobaptism was pretty much the only game in town – it’s what Rome practiced (and Eastern Christianity too for that matter). During the reformation the most radical sects of reformers were usually credobaptists (think: anabaptists here). One can picture a 16thC Mark Dever writing that credobaptism is novel.  Its theological tendencies have not had such a long track record.  And the track record they have had so far is not encouraging.

Now if you’ll excuse me, my fellow egalitarians and I are off to create a radical theocracy in Munster…